BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 21 December, 2001, 18:19 GMT
Clean-up for deceptive isle
Deception Island, Bas
Deception Island: An extraordinary place to visit
By Christine McGourty, science correspondent, in Antarctica

One of the most unusual tourist sites in Antarctica - a dormant volcano called Deception Island - is to be cleaned up under a new international programme to be agreed in January.

Going into the centre of this drowned volcano surrounded by these walls covered in snow and ice is a magnificent experience

Dr David Walton, Bas biologist
The island was once the centre of the whaling industry. From our ship, it appeared out of the mist - the dirty black volcanic cliffs towering above us.

The volcano has not been active for many years, and the cone has completely collapsed, making it possible to sail right inside. It is easy to see why sealers and whalers used this location as a safe harbour.

Rod Downie, the environmental manager at the British Antarctic Survey (Bas), is part of the team due to visit the island in January to develop the new management plan. "It really has a wealth of natural and historical resources," he said.

Hot water

"There are the ruins of a Norwegian whaling station. It also has important natural resources - perhaps the most diverse flora in the whole of Antarctica and one of the largest penguin colonies. It's a fascinating place."

Graphic, BBC
The British research base on the island was among the buildings that had to be abandoned after a series of eruptions in the 1960s. Now, the main visitors are tourists. They come to see the whaling station, the penguins and to bathe in the thermal waters on the island.

The British Antarctic Survey is leading the project to manage all the activities on Deception Island.

"What we're trying to do is to use the Antarctic Protected Area System to create a sort of matrix of zones - zones set aside for science, for tourism and historical zones," Mr Downie said.

General clean-up

Bas biologist Dr David Walton said: "We need to find a way to make sure the tourists don't damage the area, but equally we don't want tourists to stop visiting the island because it's a remarkable place.

Deception Island
The name relates to its shape and the deceptive nature of its concealed harbour.
From the sea, it looks like solid land, but is actually a horseshoe-shaped volcanic caldera.
There is a small breach in the caldera wall called Neptunes Bellows.
As ships pass through the bellows, the caldera opens up into a fantastic natural harbour called Port Foster.
The island was given its name by the American sealer Nathanial Palmer who visited the island in 1820.
"Actually going into the centre of this drowned volcano surrounded by these walls covered in snow and ice is a magnificent experience."

A group of international experts will visit the island in the next few weeks to discuss the new management plan.

It will be the first of its type anywhere in Antarctica. For Britain, it is part of a 4m five-year programme to clean up all its abandoned bases on the White Continent. The aim is to remove all disused buildings that have not been designated a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty.

This classification has been given to the old whaling station at Whalers Bay on Deception Island. It was in these buildings that the British base of 1944 was established. The huts will, therefore, escape demolition.

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories